Julie Kibler’s debut novel is a soul stirring, heart wrenching, and, how else can I say it, hope dashing story. It made me angry, brought tears to my eyes, raised and dashed my hopes, and reminded me that “the heart IS a demanding tenant.” It is a story about a love that exceeds limits, the fear that comes with putting people in categories and then trying to keep them there or breaking them out of those categories, it is about first, and sometimes lasting, impressions, and it is about a hope that springs eternal, like a rising Phoenix, no matter the circumstance. Ultimately however, it is about friendship across generational and racial lines, because we all have hurts, hopes, loves, and pasts that are universally shared.
It is a novel that you need to buy and read.
The story begins with the introduction of the main characters Isabelle MacAllister, a 89 year old white woman who is characterized by the legendary gentile southern charm with a generous helping of rapier wit and blunt opinion and Dorrie Curtis, her African-America hair stylist, a single parent, who accompanies Isabelle on road trip from Dallas to Cincinnati to attend a funeral. As they drive, Isabelle’s past as well as Dorrie’s past, and her troubled present and uncertain future, is revealed in a wonderful alternating rhythm of both first person and third person narrative as the chapters alternate between Isabelle and Dorrie’s telling of their stories. The result is a rich and bittersweet love story leading the reader back into another time and place and bringing secrets to the light which begins to shape and change the relationship between Isabelle and Dorrie into a deep and abiding friendship.
I believe Kibler does a wonderful job of bringing respect, dignity, and humanity to the two main characters reminding the reader of a common human experience that transcends race, age, and a host of other categories we use to define people in often unproductive ways. She presents historical elements in a fair and even fashion while at the same time pointing to the common human element in us all.
But enough about the story line, narrative style, and character development.
This is a wonderful and moving novel that will stand your heart on end, sideways, inside out, and straight up. It is a story about love and dignity. It is about friendship no matter our skin color or our past. It is our story though with different characters and situations.
I rate this book an “outstanding” read!
Note: I received an advance reader copy of this book via the Amazon Vine review program in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.